Oppo Find X3 Pro Review: Cute microscope, but a phone with lots of catches
Quick Verdict: The Oppo Find X3 Pro tries a lot of new tricks to entice buyers, which leads to an intriguing, but sometimes frustrating premium handset experience.
- Microscope lens is genuinely new
- Great display screen
- Powerful performance
- Lesser zoom than the Find X2 Pro
- Uneven battery performance
- Shiny casing loves fingerprints
Power, storage and battery
|Launch price (RRP)||$0|
While the majority of Oppo's phone business continues to be in more affordable – and generally excellent – mid-range and budget handsets, the Chinese maker also isn't afraid to experiment and bring new features to the premium smartphone space.
For 2021, that's embodied in the Oppo Find X3 Pro, a handset with a truly gorgeous display and something totally new in the camera phone space. However, when you stack up what it doesn't do – or in some cases doesn't do as well or as nicely as competing premium flagships – it becomes a rather uneven experience, which isn't really what you should look for in a flagship handset.
- Gloss Black finish looks lovely…
- Until you pick it up and it attracts ALL the fingerprints
- Fantastic 6.7 inch QHD+ 120Hz screen
- Great in-display fingerprint scanner
Last year's Oppo Find X2 Pro was very much a phone that sold itself on design, thanks in no small part to that eye-catching orange "Vegan Leather" finish, although you could opt for more sedate hues if that wasn't your style.
Oppo has taken a rather different design approach for the Oppo Find X3 Pro, which ships for now in only one finish, dubbed Gloss Black. It's a shiny reflective metal finish that flows seamlessly around the top camera bump, and it looks spectacular. This really is a great bit of design in a visual sense, but there's a catch.
Glossy surfaces love attracting fingerprints, and that's doubly true for the gloss black finish of the Oppo Find X3 Pro. Within seconds of picking it up, you won't be able to look at it without wondering if you should simply sand off your fingerprints to avoid sullying its beauty any further.
Tip: Do not, under any circumstances, sand off your fingerprints.
The usual solution for that problem would be to pop the Oppo Find X3 Pro into a case, and Oppo does provide one for this precise purpose. However, while for its cheaper phones you'd typically get a simple clear gel style case, for the Oppo Find X3 you instead get a matte black case that looks even cheaper and takes away that lovely finish and curve almost entirely. It will protect the Find X3 Pro, but at the cost of pretty much all its design beauty.
At the front, Oppo has spent more than a little time working on its display technology, with a 6.7 inch AMOLED display with a QHD+ (3216x1440) resolution and support for 120Hz refresh rates. It's a truly stunning and gorgeous screen when you pump up both the resolution and refresh rate, although like many makers when you first set it up it works from a more sedate 60Hz and FHD+(2412x1080) resolution to save on battery life.
There's a small punch hole camera at the top right of the display, very much in line with current design trends, and like its previous flagships you get an in-display fingerprint reader for secure biometric unlocking. Oppo hasn't led the field in providing great in-display readers in the past, but I had few issues with the Find X3 Pro once I'd enrolled my digits for speedy unlocking purposes.
One catch here, relative to what Oppo's competitors are doing in this space is that the Oppo Find X3 Pro uses Gorilla Glass 5, a generation – and a level of durability behind other current flagship models.
- Microscope camera is cool, but it's still a gimmick
- Good general camera performance
- Worse zoom than last year's Pro phone is a choice
Oppo has a strong reputation in the camera phone space, but this is an arena where premium phones really do have to stretch that bit further, thanks to the huge quantity of mid-range handsets with great general use cameras. Naturally, Oppo has some models in that space as well, but that again just intensifies the pressure on the Find X3 Pro to really stand out.
There's one area where the Find X3 Pro really does stand out, and that's with a camera module that's never been seen before on any phone. The Find X3 Pro features a 3MP microscopic camera with its own ring light, allowing you to take photos of super-close items and gain a new perspective on the world around you. Sure, we've seen plenty of mostly-awful macro lenses in plenty of phones, but this is taking close-ups to the next level.
As an example, here's my mother-in-law's sofa. It's not an exciting subject, really:
However, if you use the microscope lens, it takes on an entirely different and fun aspect:
Any Find X3 Pro owner will quickly find themselves pushing the phone up against anything and everything, just to see those underlying patterns emerge. It is undeniably a gimmick, and you typically do have to explain to people what it is that they're looking at before they get it. See if you can work out what these are:
That's a quilt, some jumper fibres and the side of a disposable face mask, if you were really curious.
The rest of the Oppo Find X3 Pro's camera setup is good, but once again there's a weird little catch to take into consideration. At the back there's a primary 50MP f/1.8 sensor, paired up with a 50MP f/2.2 110.3' ultrawide lens, and then finally a 13MP Telephoto camera with 2x optical zoom. Oppo does sell the Find X3 Pro as having 5x zoom, but that's a hybrid figure that uses the other sensors to pump up the default zoom's optical length.
Where this is weird is when you consider that 2020's Oppo Find X2 Pro featured a 5x optical zoom and 10x hybrid zoom feature. It's actually stepped backwards for its newer and now more expensive flagship phone, which isn't the way that premium flagship phones are meant to evolve. Essentially Oppo's traded optical zoom capabilities for that microscope lens, and while the latter is fun, I'm not sure it's a tradeoff that best benefits those who want a premium camera experience.
You can shift the zoom even further than that 5x hybrid zoom, all the way up to 20x digital zoom, but predictably you get a lot of noise in your shots when you do so, even in good lighting conditions.
The Find X3 Pro generally shoots quite well from that primary lens, and also from the ultrawide for most shot types, but that's the kind of effort that you can get pretty easily out of a mid-range phone these days. A flagship should shoot better, and also handle more difficult shot types such as low light.
To put this to the test, I took the Oppo Find X3 Pro out for some night shooting up against the more expensive Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. I would have liked to test against the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, but didn't have a review model to hand at the time.
Here's a river shot taken on the Oppo Find X3 Pro with minimal side lighting:
Here's the same shot taken on the iPhone 12 Pro Max:
The Find X3 Pro totally nails the mood of the shot that you might want, and I'm fairly sure that there's a river bunyip under that boat waiting to eat me, but there's not much doubt that the iPhone 12 Pro Max is picking up a whole lot more light into its shot.
A short walk further, and I was in an area with very little light pollution, which meant that the stars came out to play. While these shots were taken as handheld ones, and a tripod is always best under those circumstances, they do tell the story of the Find X3 Pro's low light performance pretty starkly.
Here's what the iPhone 12 Pro Max could see:
By way of comparison, here's the shot the Oppo Find X3 Pro captured in the same circumstances:
Overall, owners of the Oppo Find X3 Pro won't have too many issues generally getting pleasing photos out of it, and there's enough creative scope here to experiment with photography, but it still falls short of the standards that a premium flagship phone should offer in 2021. In essence, you've really got to love that microscope camera a whole lot to make it stand out.
- Snapdragon 888 is suitably snappy
- No MicroSD expansion
- ColorOS offers an uneven Android experience
The Find X3 Pro is the first phone we've seen here in Australia running on Qualcomm's premium 2021 chipset, the Snapdragon 888. Samsung's produced versions of its Galaxy S21 phones with Snapdragon 888s inside them, but we don't get those models down under.
As such, I was seriously keen to see how Qualcomm's silicon would stack up against the Exynos processors in Samsung's phones, as well as the mighty A14 Bionic found in Apple's iPhones. Alongside the Snapdragon 888, Oppo gives the Find X3 Pro 12GB of RAM, although it's only equipped with 256GB of onboard storage. That's far from nothing, but annoyingly there's no capability for microSD card expansion at all.
To put the Find X3 Pro through its paces, it was time to get testing against the industry's current best from Samsung and Apple. First of all, a little CPU shootout, using Geekbench 5's CPU test:
The Snapdragon 888 and Find X3 Pro certainly aren't slouches in this regard, but there's not quite the dominance I expected given some benchmark figures for the 888 in international Galaxy S21 models. Apple's still leading the market here by a wide margin, but it appears that Samsung's doing more than Oppo in terms of software optimisation to make the most out of Qualcomm's silicon.
That's something of an academic argument in real world usage, where you won't find the Oppo Find X3 to be a slow phone in any real regard.
Switching over to graphics performance, I put the Find X3 Pro head to head against the exact same competitor phones, as well as last year's Oppo Find X2 Pro using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme and newer Wildlife GPU tests:
Like the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, the Find X3 Pro actually maxes out the Slingshot Extreme OpenGL test, so the real comparison lies in Wildlife scores, where it's essentially neck and neck between Samsung and Oppo, trailing again behind Apple but well ahead of last year's Samsung and Oppo devices.
All of this adds up to a nice and powerful device, but perhaps not the market leader that Oppo would like to present it as. There's little to fault here as a premium device on the hardware side.
On the software front, the Oppo Find X3 Pro is an Android 11 phone, running Oppo's own ColorOS overlay on top. While ColorOS started life as a very shameless iOS clone – which was the path pretty much every Chinese OEM phone maker was taking at that time – it's evolved into its own unusual fork of Android, with a very bright default theme and a lot of customisation options and quirks.
I'm on the record as not particularly being a big fan of ColorOS, and during my review time with the Find X3 Pro, I kept finding areas where it reshuffled the Android deck in terms of expectations without noticeable benefit, and in some cases took it sharply backwards. Notifications for apps don't quite work as you might think they would, and I had a persistent bug issue where the Oppo Find X3 Pro wouldn't detect a USB C cable connected to a PC or Mac for file transfers. Sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn't, while other Android handsets quickly connected without fuss.
- Inconsistent battery life, often hampered by 5G
- Great fast wired charging
Oppo's past phones have rarely been real battery monsters, either in capacity or durability terms, but the Oppo Find X3 Pro represents some real challenges to battery life in general. The Snapdragon 888 is a powerful chip, and it's sporting a 120Hz display with 5G capabilities, all of which could put a heavy strain on its 4,500mAh battery. But would it?
The answer to that question is, as they say, quite complicated. To get a first taste feel of its likely battery endurance, I ran it past Finder's standard battery test. This involves pumping screen brightness up to full, volume to moderate and running a Full HD streaming YouTube video for an hour off a fully charged battery. Any phone that can't manage above 90% remaining in this test is likely to fall short of a single day's usage. To really put the Oppo Find X3 Pro through its paces, I switched it to 120Hz refresh and QHD+ resolution. Here's how the Oppo Find X3 Pro compares:
That's a reasonable battery life figure, and a pleasing jump up from 2020's Oppo Find X2 Pro, but it's far from the whole story. I always like to put every phone through a more rigorous day to day testing regime as well, and here the Oppo Find X3 Pro showed some serious issues with battery capabilities. As a day to day phone, it would typically start complaining about low power around 3 or 4pm in the afternoon of a working day, far from what you'd want in a premium phone. I could eke out more life by dropping 5G, screen resolution and refresh rates, as you'd expect.
However, the Oppo Find X3 Pro is a premium handset, and that's the equivalent of throwing the brakes on heavily when what you should be able to do is enjoy it through an entire day without having to really fuss about data speeds or screen quality. Indeed, if you're going to pay this kind of money, you should be able to enjoy those features all the time.
At least when it comes time to recharge the Oppo Find X3 Pro you won't be left wanting. It's equipped with Oppo's 65W SuperVOOC USB C charging capability for very quick recharge, although that does rely on using Oppo's supplied charger. Other chargers will add juice to the Oppo Find X3 Pro, but nowhere near as quickly. The Oppo Find X3 Pro also supports wireless Qi charging, but that will be even slower as it always is.
Should you buy the Oppo Find X3 Pro?
- Buy it if you really want that microscope lens.
- Don't buy it if you want best-in-class flagship performance.
I really love the way that Oppo isn't afraid to take risks with its flagships. We've seen that over many years with a lot of quirky innovations that it adds to to its premium phones to make them truly stand out in wildly experimental ways.
The problem with taking risks when you're talking about a phone that costs $1,699 outright is that you've still got to deliver the goods relative to everything else in the market at that time. The Oppo Find X3 Pro delivers a microscopic camera you simply won't find in any smartphone right now, but only time will tell if other phone makers get on the microscopic photography bandwagon right now.
In all other aspects it's a nicely powerful handset with a really slick design, but it doesn't quite punch up to the level of its contemporary competitors, and especially to the two big heavyweights in the flagship space right now. The downgrade in optical zoom feels like a poor tradeoff for the microscopic camera, and arguably makes the Oppo Find X2 Pro a better buy, especially as you should be able to score a real bargain on one of those right now.
Pricing and availability
PriceThe Oppo Find X3 Pro is available in Australia for $1,699 outright, or on contract terms with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone:
Where to buy
Power, storage and battery
Images: Alex Kidman